Meet the Thoths!

Published by Alison Cross on

Got that tiger by the tail?

I’m sorry, but in my head the theme from the Flinstones started playing as I typed that blog title! And it is deeply inappropriate because the elegant Thoth Courts are about as far away from Barney and Betty Rubble as you can get!

The Thoth deck, created by Aleister Crowley (rhymes with Holy) and Frieda, Lady Harris*, is one of the most beautiful and well thought-through decks in the Tarot universe.  Crowley was a Golden Dawner – and one of its most colourful characters.  Once referred to by the press as ‘the wickedest man in the world’ he was, I think, just 50 years ahead of his time.  Today he would be hanging out with Lady Gaga and regularly papped for all the Celebrity pages in newspapers.

Prince of Wands
F1 Champion

But for all his over-the-top antics (chiselling off a discrete fig leaf from Oscar Wilde’s tombstone, for example), he was utterly sincere in his Great Work.  Cajoled (and paid) into creating a Tarot by Lady Harris the two of them hammered out this magnificent deck.  If you get a chance to read their correspondece, please do.

In line with Golden Dawn thought, we see a change in the Court Card structure.  There are no Pages and Kings in this deck, instead we have Princesses and Princes.

In the RWS we have a court that is structured like this:  The Page is the lowest rank….then Knight….then Queen….then King.  The story *I* tell myself about them is that the King and Queen have two children – the Knight is older and taking on some of The Firm’s responsibilities and the Page is really just learning her place in the world.

She can pack quite
a punch with that Wand!

Other people have a slightly different story – the King and Queen are right up there at the top of the pack, the Page is not their child, but just a Page, a little servant; the Knight is not their son, just a courtier.  A very FLASHY courtier though.

But the structure is the same – Page, Knight, Queen, King.

Not so in the Thoth.

In Crowley’s story, the Knight is the Consort for the Queen.  The Queen being the old King’s daughter. The Prince is the Son of the Queen and the Knight.  The Princess is won by the Prince and set upon her mother’s throne. Crowley says: ‘She thus awakens the Eld of the old king, who becomes a Knight and so renews the cycle.’

Explosive Knights!

‘She is not only the perfect maiden,’ continues Crowley ‘but (also) the lamenting widow’  of the Prince.

I know.  It’s like an episode of the real Game of Thrones.

This transformation of King into Knight, Knight and Queen unity, the production of a Prince, the son’s union with his Princess sister, his transformation itno the Knight, her morphing into Queen…’s hugely dynamic and exciting, much more so than the static positions of the RWS, don’t you think?

What makes it so hideously confusing is that the Knights are on horseback – just as they are in the RWS – and it is SO easy to lapse into thinking of them as Ye Olde Waite Knight.

The Prince is the son of the Knight and Queen.   A Prince is ALWAYS a Queen’s son – that’s one lynch-pin that will keep your Thoth Tarot Arcana from tumbling into mental disarray when you start to use it!

The Knight and Queen of Cups
Prince and Princess of Cups

*Calling herself Lady Frieda Harris was just a little affectation that she took for herself.  According to Lon Milo DuQuette in his book Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot (and I cannot recommend this book highly enough if you are planning on a bit of Thoth Dabbling) the correct way to address this estranged wife of a Baronet is Frieda, Lady Harris.  She should only have been calling herself Lady Frieda Harris if her father had had the title.  Debretts? Who needs it. You’re welcome πŸ™‚

Knight and Queen of Disks

Princess and Prince of Disks

Can you spot Tyrion Lannister?!
Look at the colours in these cards – aren’t they magnificent?  These colourways didn’t just happen by chance….but that’s a story for another day πŸ™‚
Knight and Queen of Swords

Princess and Prince of Swords

All images from the Thoth Tarot, published by US GAmes Systems, words – Aleister Crowley, art Lady Frieda Harris.

Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot – Lon Milo DuQuette

All the Thoth resources on Amazon UK

Alison Cross

The Tarot's Court Cards are my specialist area.Β  They talk to me. Not LITERALLY though ....


Anonymous · 19th February 2017 at 12:48 pm

I have a Sun in Aquarius and Mercury in Aquarius and with a moon in Pisces. I have a very interesting way of looking at things and prefer subconscious experiences then conscious experiences. I'm a very active thinker, always coming up with fresh ideas from ideas already experienced.. the glory of transformations, very much into spirituality, new age since my youth. My first tarot cards way back in the 1980's was the Robin Hood Tarot and in the 1990's, we found the Enchanted Tarot fascinating. We are considering adding the Throth Tarot to my tarot collections. Thanks for all the wonderful Tarot images in your blog, very helpful πŸ™‚

Sharon · 13th May 2012 at 5:39 pm

I think the Thoth deck is one of the most beautiful available today. I love the artwork done for each and every card, and I'm also looking forward to reading your post about the colours used in their design Alison!

    alisoncross · 24th May 2012 at 9:50 am

    It's scheduled – but not written up yet lol!

    Ali x

magusrelax · 11th May 2012 at 6:32 pm

love the pictures, colours superb, like the feel and the look, dont understand them one little bit…magusrelax

    alisoncross · 24th May 2012 at 9:50 am

    What are you like?! Be inspired and GET THEM TURNED INTO A WORKING DECK!

    Ali x

Bonkers · 11th May 2012 at 5:50 pm

I love the Thoth courts. Funnily enough, I know less about them than many people, having yet to have time to read up, but intuitively they speak to me :]

And yes, lovely art

    alisoncross · 24th May 2012 at 9:49 am

    Bonkers – I would strongly recommend that it become a deck that you get to grips with. I really think you would love it.

alisoncross · 11th May 2012 at 5:18 pm

Joanne – Lon's books is prefect because it has a witty, friendly tone and contains JUST the right amount of information to let people crack on without being bogged down – but, like Crowley's own book on The Thoth – Lon's book yields something new every time I read it.

If you like Crowley, there are numerous excellent biographies – I have Perdurabo by Richard Kaczynski and The Confessions of Aleister Crowley by John Symonds…and Do What Thou Wilt by Laurence Sutin. I know – it's quite a lot – but I was trying to write a play based on his life story. But it would have ended up a movie the combined length of the Lord of The Rings Saga πŸ™‚

The letters between Crowley and Harris are on line – here's a link to read it:

In 2011, I was invited to tke part in the Letters From The Past project by Lyn Olds (New Zealand) and I chose to write to Lady Harris πŸ™‚ As I wrote I found myself slipping into Noel Coward mode lol!

Re the Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot triangle – I like your train of thought! I've been sitting with the blog post half-finished for ages and you totally spurred me into completing it – thank you for that Joanne!

Ali x

Joanne · 11th May 2012 at 4:19 pm

Well, that's supremely helpful, Alison! Assuming you got most of this from DuQuette. No wonder one needs a whole book just to get the story straight. Now the relationships of the courts in Thoth make a lot more sense, although the Knight on horseback thing for the "king" equivalent is real hard on the RWS-trained brain. It is quite the soap opera. Kind of reminds me of the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot triangle, amongst others. Crowley always did like the drama…:)

Ooh, and thanks for posting the pics in groups like that. Now on-screen I can see the color patterns better for the suits.

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